Contemporary

Contemporary: (adj) living or occurring at the same time.

“What is the opposite of contemporary?”

This question was posed to me once in an interview. I think the person conducting the inquiry was a bit upset because during the conversation I referred to “contemporary matters” as often being insufficient to human need.

I turned it around on my questioner. “What do YOU think the opposite is of contemporary?”

He didn’t miss a beat. “Old-fashioned.”

There is an instinct in this nation of the free and the home of the brave to try to turn every subject into a conflict in order to fill the space on a talk show which funny wisdom on words that begin with a Calready has too much chatter.

Old-fashioned is not the opposite of contemporary. There are many emotions and actions which might be considered old-fashioned, which if faithfully applied, would come across as very contemporary in our modern-day stand-offs.

  • Kindness
  • Consideration
  • Humor
  • Wit
  • Cleverness
  • Poetry
  • Satire

All of these are relics of the past which survive quite well when they’re given a new suit of clothes and paraded on the catwalk.

The opposite of contemporary is actually “untried”—ideas that have sprouted from nowhere, short-sighted and including only a part of humanity while promoting the preferences of a chosen few.

It will never be old-fashioned to be inclusive. It is a contemporary position.

It will never be old-fashioned to be considerate. It is a contemporary profile.

And it will never be old-fashioned to question power—especially when it seems the domination is being used to hurt other human beings.

That is merely contemporary action.

 

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Anecdote

dictionary with letter A

Anecdote: (n) a short and amusing or interesting tale about a real person or incident.

There are things that are true–yet truth has a responsibility to stay contemporary.

What I mean is that simply because something was true in a certain way a hundred years ago does not mean it can be heard as truth in our present society by pursuing the same method.

For instance, people used to tell stories.

Back before radio, television, Internet and downloads, the bearer of news relied on speech instead of Podcasts.

Folks actually sat around a fire for hours, spinning one yarn after another, giving examples, and in the process, created both understanding and fellowship with one another.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to get nostalgic. I’m perfectly satisfied living in a world where the anecdote has been set aside, or only applied as a means of an opening monologue for a Rotary Club speaker.

But in the pursuit of truth, we have to learn how to take the better parts of the past and mingle them with the new awakening. The only danger, of course, is losing the intimacy once possessed between human beings, and ending up with phones that have their own “I”-dentity and think they’re “smarter” than us.

So what should we do?

I think it’s the responsibility of the creative people in every generation to keep the warmth of great ideas and heat them up on the burners of our time.

It’s one of the reasons I write this essay. I can take words, insert my anecdotes on subjects a bit beyond the realm of my true perception, and therefore interact with you blessed people.

So the next time you come across some grandfatherly individual who begins his conversation with, “It reminds me of the time when I was a young man…”–instead of rolling your eyes and quietly texting under the table, find an ingenious way to come up with two questions to ask him about his experience, and see if it doesn’t change a mere story … into an encounter.

 

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Thank you for enjoying Words from Dic(tionary) —  J.R. Practix

Allegory

Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter A

Allegory: (n) a story, poem or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one: e.g. Pilgrim’s Progress is an allegory of the spiritual journey.

I am not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the line, the word “reality” became synonymous with “truth.”

Reality is not truth. Rather, it is our present fallen position.

Often we have to escape reality to climb a little higher to see over the mounds of our own stupidity. Yet in the past thirty or forty years, entertainment, education and even our politics have boasted their “open-mindedness” and intellectual pursuits by taking a snapshot of ongoing human behavior, insisting that it is a tableau of our destiny.

Isn’t that ridiculous?

So when I think about the allegory, I realize that it is almost a lost art–because allegory does exactly the opposite of reality movies and TV. The allegory says there are principles, feelings and ideas which are eternal and lasting–which only need to be passed through the prism of our present understanding in order to enlighten us.

Just because people are going through a season when they think God is mean, or doesn’t exist at all, does not mean that’s what they will feel in five years.

What is the consensus of human need on the issue? Find that–then draw an allegory, using the language of our times to present everlasting truth.

  • I don’t want society deciding what is valuable.
  • I don’t want to have a conversation with someone about television shows which extol violence, crime, graft, greed and incest and have him look at me with pity because I don’t understand that it’s “a true story.”
  • I don’t want to watch vampires suck the blood out of werewolves as witches place curses on hobbits who are out to pursue rings by killing dragons and believe that I am out of step because it is just necessary escapist fantasy. Maybe Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter are attempts at allegory, but they are so cluttered with the inclusion of destiny that they lose the passion of free will.

I admire allegory.

I appreciate the way Jesus used allegory in parables, explaining the kingdom of God to people by referencing fish, coins, bread yeast and mustard seeds instead of merely bitching about the Romans and complaining about the boring Pharisees.

Reality is not truth.

Truth is finding a way to share what has blessed our species for thousands of years … in a contemporary fashion.

 

Alight

Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter A

Alight: (v) descend from the air and settle: e.g. a lovely blue swallow alighted on the branch

It’s really outdated. Matter of fact, if you used the term today it would have to be a comical retro reference to a former time.

“Heavy.”

I don’t know why we considered that word cool. I guess we thought it communicated that some concept was deep, containing a weight of wisdom.

It certainly would not go over in this day and age, where we think profundities are achieved by explaining on Facebook or in a Tweet how we plan to go to the grocery store to pick up a can of pimentos. (LOL)

And honestly, even in the era when “heavy” was considered to be contemporary, many of the ideas being passed along were purposely obtuse, in order to appear to be intellectual.

Here’s what I know: really great ideas and powerful words of encouragement and joyful exhortation … alight.

  • They land on the soul effortlessly, with a bit of jubilation and simplicity.
  • They encourage us to exhale as we appear to be holding our breath in anxiety.
  • They suggest the possibility of a solution in what seems to be a terminally dismal cave.
  • They cause us to giggle instead of sitting around envisioning scenarios of doom

Wisdom is brief, it is easy, it is non-burdensome and it is evidence that we are not alone.

Some people feel extraordinarily astute by complicating living situations, offering a climate of ferocious debate which establishes them as brilliant and insightful, but I have found that true spirituality, divine emotion, ordained intelligence and great movement is best when it alights in our being, weightless but worthy.

Heavy just makes us sag at the shoulders under the oppression.

We need a generation of intelligent people who can have the wisdom of the serpent … but alight as harmless as doves.

 

Afar

Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter AAfar: (adv.) at or to a distance: e.g. our hero traveled afar

Here is a word that exists just so we can truly appreciate the value of being near. After all, anything we would really want “afar” is not really worthy of being discussed, is it? And if we’re actually going to travel, clarifying it by using a medieval term like “afar” seems a bit pretentious, if not culturally gross.

Yes, it’s another one of those words which, if we actually utter it, when it comes out of our mouth, it sounds like we’re posing for a painting, hopefully being admired by onlookers for our continental use of the King’s speak.

I feel sorry for “afar.”

Maybe it deserves better. Maybe it should be admired for having four letters and balancing two vowels and two consonants. (Yet how often would such an award of appreciation be available?)

I’m afraid “afar” suffers from what most of us do: it is too old and when it tries to insert itself into contemporary situations, looks a trifle ridiculous.

So here’s to the word “afar,” which quite honestly, from this point on … will need to follow its own obvious advice.

 

Abubble

by J. R. Practix

dictionary with letter A

Abubble: (adj.) with great happiness and enthusiasm.

Gosh, I wish I could use that word. Wouldn’t that be fun, if you could walk into your house and turn to your family or friends and proclaim that “everyone seems abubble tonight?”

I certainly don’t want to begin this Monday with a lamentation; it’s just that sometimes it seems to me that if you use really colorful words or intelligent expressions, people look at you like you’re hoity-toity or maybe even a little fruity. Or worse–perhaps British.

Abubble is a great term.

There are certain occasions that should be abubble. People walking out of a movie theater should be abubble if they’ve seen a comedy, bouncing around from one foot to another, excitedly talking to their friends about what they’ve just viewed.

When the doors of a church open to release the congregants into the parking lot, there should be folks abubble with excitement, blessing and a celebration of God’s wonderful grace.

I think husbands and wives should be abubble. I know there are serious times and difficulties, but generally speaking, if we’re working out our problems instead of tabling them like we’re at the United Nations, the by-product of glee and gladness should seep forth.

But some words are deemed to be overwrought or old-fashioned. For instance, I told a group of people yesterday that they were proclaimed to be “contemporary” because they were laid-back, unmoved by the circumstances around them. When did the evidence of youth become a countenance unaffected? I don’t get it.

Even though we may never be able to return to commonly using the word “abubble” to describe the happiness coming from our hearts, we do need to find some word that allows us to celebrate the beauty of surviving difficult moments of humanity and coming out the other side …  victorious.